Highway is just plain wrong and Imtiaz Ali has lost the plot!

Review of Highway, movie 2014

There are many choice words that come to mind while sitting down to write this review for ‘Highway’, Imtiaz Ali’s latest movie. You can find my review for his last film Rockstar here.

He continues to pile up the mistakes! The story premises of both these movies are absurd, weirdly heroic and utterly nonsensical. Not enough good writing on either!

A young girl is kidnapped by a rough villager and a petty criminal. Alia Bhatt doesn’t have the depth as an actor that is required to potray the multiple complexities of what she has to deal with. Her potrayal is that of a typical Bollywood heroine, who is cute and bubbly, just in a different & strange circumstance. For those who don’t watch Telugu and Tamil movies, this particular type of characterization of a female lead is common place. Really.Most of the tamil/telugu heroines are slightly mad/off and take strange decisions in their screen lives with the sole intention of helping their directors/writers make their movie stranger/more different from any other movie. So first let’s establish the fact that what Imtiaz Ali does is not any different from these film makers in that regard. He is definitely not avante garde, honestly he should just stop trying. Give us and himself a break. He should try and be a bit more happy. Take a leaf from his own heros/heroines’ stories. Take a road trip by himself. Liberate himself off these expectations that he saddles himself with. Something.

Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda both have stilted dialogue delivery. They appear great in wide angle shots with no dialogue but the minute they have to open their mouths they become what they probably are in real life because they definitely do not become the characters they are supposed to potray. A haryanvi/delhi accent does not make you authentic. While Alia gives a one note dialogue delivery of madness and cuteness, Randeep gives a one note dialogue delivery of anger and whatever else (always sticking to that one note, one can’t find a layer if one digs even a hundred meters deep!).

The problems of the actors are far more forgivable however, than the problems of the story. Imtiaz Ali thinks he is delving into deep social economic problems (which are forced into the script) while he is not. In fact, this movie was a bit like watching ‘Guru’ where one came face to face with Mani Ratnam’s lack of any real grasp of the idea of capitalism. This film similarly gives a taste of Imtiaz Ali’s incomprehension of any deep/dark psyche of human nature  along with his complete lack of any socio-political understanding of society.

The story combines elements of ‘Lady Chatterly’s lover’ (for those of whom who haven’t read this, it is about a repressed lady in classist England finding love and sex with her gardener on the estate who is from the lowest of the classes) and of course the Stockholm Syndrome. The casualness with which the latter is dealt with is baffling. Why would one take up such a complex matter as Stockholm syndrome and want to play ball with it? Alia’s character has a reasonably hard time for a day with the kidnapping, and then in a heartbeat is chipper like sunshine. What bullsh*t. One wonders where the part of the brain that warns you when you are in danger has gone. Does she even realize the graveness of the situation she is in? Does the director realize this? Are we all supposed to have this mindset towards criminal abductions? Charm your kidnapper, be cute as kitten and hope for the best? We are supposed to believe this? To add insult to injury, Alia after the first day of abduction, starts saying things to her abductors like – ‘I want to come out in the open with you and don’t want to be in a closed room, I want to see more. Are holidays supposed to be like this? For me they have always have been about hotel rooms’ etc (one wonders if she just couldn’t have taken a euro train like Kajol in DDLJ and gotten it over with, but this is too sane a choice for the mad cap, strange character played by Alia). Liberation, for a rich kid, who has gone through abuse as a child. My god! Who sits around decides the stories for these movies? Imbeciles? They must have added abuse to give it depth. Definitely felt like a forced plot intervention!

This is a bad story, that is badly or hardly written. There are possibilities with explorations of characters and situations that just don’t happen. And as an audience (with or without money) if I am investing my time and emotions in your film, then don’t be lazy about it. Think some things through. Do some homework on the story itself, get your dialogues written. This basic courtesy I expect. I am least interested in your inner angst and demons. Why should I be?

This is not Imtiaz Ali’s venturing into the darkness but him delivering his brand of lightness from a supposed darkness that he can’t comprehend. He is making a love story still, but just doesn’t want to admit to it. What this inner fight of his translates itself into, for us, movie goers is not a pretty image.

I would like to close this by mentioning my earlier words on Rockstar –

If Imtiaz Ali is bored by the kind of romance that he worked with initially, then we are in for some strange movie watching experience courtesy him in the future. “

With Highway he has proved me right, this movie is stranger than strange. And a lazy, dishonest effort on the part of the film maker. Can’t really say about awards (really who can!) but he is definitely collecting bad karma for this (and Rockstar).

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